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Kidnappers? Crazy Fans? No, It’s Chinese Parents on Their Kids’ First Day at School

The first day of school is often a major milestone – perhaps more so for parents than for their children. These Chinese parents could not resist the urge to spy on their kids during that first schoolday, which started this week.

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The first day of school is often a major milestone – perhaps more so for parents than for their children. These Chinese parents could not resist the urge to spy on their kids during that first schoolday, which started this week.

“If you spot these kinds of people near a preschool today, there’s no need to worry about them. They’re not bad people, they’re no kidnappers, it’s just that their child has their first day of school,” one Chinese blogger wrote on Weibo this week, as many netizens shared dozens of snapshots of parents doing everything they can to catch a glimpse of their child from outside the classroom.

“Yes! This is exactly how it goes on that first day,” another popular Weibo blogger said.

The ‘no kidnappers’ Weibo post was shared over 33,000 times this week, triggering thousands of reactions from netizens both ridiculing the parents and sympathizing with them, as their separation anxiety is often worse than that of their children.

“My niece first went to kindergarten this week,” one commenter shares: “and as the child next to her was crying she stayed cool and collected and comforted her, saying ‘don’t cry, it’s no use crying over this’.”

There are also people who mention that it is not easy for teachers when parents stand outside while their children are inside, as teachers had to come forward to say they wish the parents would leave. Once the children are finally settled down, they will start crying again upon catching a sight of their parents.

The phenomenon of Chinese parents who cannot say goodbye to their schoolgoing children does not just occur outside kindergartens. Last year, the so-called ‘tents of love’ (爱心帐篷) became a hot topic on Chinese social media.

“Tents of love”: parents set up their tents at university campus to support their children.

When students have their first day at college, parents who come from far will often travel along with their children and spent the first days sleeping in tents outside the school. They do this to give their children both emotional and practical support, but perhaps more so to soothe their own separation anxiety.

Both the ‘tents of love’ and the clingy parents outside kindergartens are seen as a modern-day phenomenon by many Chinese web users. Today’s generations of children are nowhere near as independent as the older generations were, many say.

“I went to preschool alone, and I even paid the school tuition myself with the money in my backpack,” one commenter notes.

“We were poor when I was growing up – I never even went to kindergarten,” says one of the many responders to the pictures on Weibo.

But people mostly think the photos of the clingy parents are humorous: “Just look at their posture – they want to see, but they do not want to be seen,” a person says, adding a smiley.

“What a mysterious spectacle it is!”, others say, as if it were photos from a nature documentary.

Many just think the scenes are touching: “These parents and grandparents just have so much love!”

Will he go unnoticed?

By Manya Koetse & Miranda Barnes

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Memes & Viral

UK Embassy Lights a Virtual Candle on Weibo on June 4th, Gesture Instantly Backfires

A virtual candle posted on the UK embassy account was meant to commemorate June 4, but Weibo users turned it into something else.

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The virtual candle was meant for the annual – heavily censored – commemoration of the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, but Chinese netizens responded with ‘RIP the Queen’.

On June 3rd, What’s on Weibo reported that various Weibo emoji disappeared this week in light of the June 4 anniversary and heightened censorship.

One of the Weibo emoji to have been removed from the platform’s collection of frequently used emoticons is the candle [蜡烛], which is often used to commemorate, mourn, or pay respects to people and incidents on social media.

On Friday, June 4th, one of the times in the year when censorship on Chinese social media intensifies – June 4 marks the violent crackdown of the Tiananmen student protests in 1989 – the official Weibo account of the UK Embassy in China (@英国驻华使馆) published a noteworthy image, namely that of a burning candle.

The Weibo account of the UK Embassy in Beijing has over 1.8 million followers. On Twitter, the ‘UK in China’ account posted the same image.

In order to ‘justify’ the image of the candle posted by UK officials, the hashtag “The Queen of the United Kingdom Passed Away” started making its rounds on Chinese social media. By Friday night, local time, the hashtag page was viewed over 16 million times and the comments started to get wilder (#英国女王因病去世#).

Some people suggested the candle was lit because the Queen had passed away due to illness, others said the death was due to childbirth complications, and then some wrote it was after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Meanwhile, the original post by the Embassy has disappeared from Weibo at the time of writing. It is unclear if the post was removed by online censors, or if the UK Embassy deleted its own post soon after it backfired.

On Twitter, Christina Scott, Minister and Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Beijing, claimed that the image of the candle was “censored within 20 minutes.”

UK-China relations have seen major shifts in recent times, especially since the UK banned Huawei from British 5G networks and also stepped up its criticism of China’s treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Beijing’s national security law covering Hong Kong – which are seen as domestic matters in China.

In light of the various events that have hurt the ties between the UK and China, the British embassy’s virtual candle on June 4th was not necessarily perceived as a ‘friendly gesture’ by many.

Many Chinese netizens found the online stream of wild fabrications funny, although others were left confused and wanted to know if something had really happened to the Queen.

Hu Xijin (胡锡进), Chinese journalist and Global Times editor-in-chief, also responded to the ‘RIP the Queen’ trend on his Weibo account. In his post, Hu suggested that the very fact that Chinese netizens joked about Queen Elizabeth is the price the UK Embassy needs to pay for its ‘provocative’ post. He also warned the American and British embassies that they should learn from this incident to “thoroughly understand the actual feelings of the majority of Chinese people, and [to understand] how their perceptions have become so out of touch with China’s reality.”

Hu’s post received hundreds of replies, with some praising how Weibo users have found a way to “cure ills with poison” (以毒攻毒, ‘fight fire with fire’).

In the midst of all controversy, the ‘T-word,’ Tiananmen, was completely left out of the online discussions.

By Manya Koetse & Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Insight

China’s ‘Three Child Era’ Announcement Is Met with Banter and Backlash on Weibo

“The three-child policy is here, and it’s terrifying!”

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Four decades after the introduction of the one-child policy and five years after the start of a two-child policy, the Communist Party of China has now issued a statement on May 31 that all Chinese couples are allowed to have three children.

On May 31, after a meeting by the Politburo, Chinese authorities announced that all married couples would be allowed to have three children. The announcement comes over five years after an earlier law came into effect allowing Chinese couples to have a second child.

On Weibo, the topic immediately became top trending, with the Xinhua News hashtag page on the issue (#三孩生育政策来了#) going from 800 million views to 2.2 billion views within just an hour on Monday afternoon local time.

The announcement image by Xinhua.

An illustrated image showing three small children was shared on social media by Xinhua, saying: “The three-child policy is here! Actively responding to the aging population, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China convened a meeting on May 31 on the implementation of a policy allowing couples to have a third child and interrelated support measures.”

“They will have a brother or sister,” by China Youth Daily.

State media outlet China Youth Daily also published an image depicting two children playing on the floor, the text saying: “The three-child policy has come. They will have a brother or sister.”

Loosening policies and plummeting birth rates

Facing a rapidly aging population, China has been loosening its previous ‘one-child policy’ for years.

China initiated the one-child policy in 1979 with an aim to control the nation’s rapid population growth. It was successful in doing so: the government estimates that it prevented over 400 million extra births. The policy has also been blamed for innumerable cases of forced abortions and mandatory sterilizations.

Ethnic minorities or couples in rural areas were already allowed to have more than one child if their firstborn was a girl. Since 2013, couples were entitled to have a second child if they themselves were an only child. Richer families could also choose to have a second child and simply pay the high fine they would get for having another baby.

In October of 2015, the Communist Party of China (CPC) issued an official statement that all couples would be allowed to have two children. That law went into effect on 1 January 2016. Although the new policy led to a brief ‘baby boom’ – birth rates in China rose to their highest level since 2000 – the number still fell short of government estimation’s and the birth rates soon dropped again. In 2019, the birth rate of 10.48 per thousand marked the lowest number since 1949.

More kids, more stress?

When the shift from the one-child policy to a ‘two-child policy’ was announced in 2015, the expected change created a major buzz on social media. Although many people applauded the change in policy, there were also those who thought the end of the one-child policy came too late to counter the slow growth in population.

‘Many Chinese families cannot afford to have a second child,’ was one of the most recurring online comments at the time. For many Chinese couples, as only children, the everyday pressure of taking care of their elderly parents and carrying the financial burden for their own household was already very high. “We need more financial support from the government so that we can actually consider having a second child,” Chinese Weibo users said in 2015.

The introduction of a possible ‘three-child policy’ first became a trending topic on Chinese social media in 2018. In that year, Chinese bloggers and netizens denounced the potential measure in saying that an extension from a ‘two-child policy’ to a ‘three-child policy’ would add to the burden of Chinese women. Such a policy, they argued, would lead to Chinese women facing social expectations to birth a third child. And with supposed longer maternity leaves, they would also face unequal opportunities in the employment market.

But it is not just about the financial burden and economic pressure. In a 2018 column for What’s on Weibo, writer Frankie Huang emphasized that China’s declining birth rates are often explained through an economic lens, while the social and historical background that has shaped the ways Chinese young parents think about family life today is perhaps more crucial in understanding people’s decision to postpone a second child or eschew one entirely. “We must take into account how the One Child Policy made the single child family normative by erasing the experience of having siblings from the lives of millions,” Huang wrote.

The ‘terrifying’ three child era

Looking back at the online sentiments that dominated Chinese social media before, it is perhaps unsurprising that many commenters on social media platforms in China today are somewhat skeptical about the introduction of a ‘three child policy’ (三孩生育政策).

A Weibo poll by Chinese state media outlet Xinhua asking “Are You Ready for the Three Child Policy?” was ridiculed by some when nearly 30,000 people replied “I am not considering it [three kids] at all”, with only a few hundred people indicating a more positive stance on the policy. The poll was apparently soon deleted.

Many people raise issues and concerns that come with having multiple children, including those related to the position of women in the employment market, the high cost of daycare, and children’s education.

One popular comment even suggested that China’s post-80s and post-90s generations deserve to get a medal if they actually had three children, which would mean that – as only children themselves – they would need to look after four elderly parents, three young children, and then continue working while facing a gradually delayed legal retirement age.

“The three-child policy is here, and it’s terrifying!” one popular female Weibo blogger (@Alex绝对是个妞儿) writes: “Many girls around me are already afraid to have one child, and I personally think having one is the limit – I didn’t expect the policy to be so ahead of its time! No kidding, if other supporting policies and guarantees are not in place, it will be very difficult to change women’s willingness to have children. It’s not that we don’t want to have children, it’s not that the policy doesn’t allow us to have children, it’s that once we have children, women’s lives will collapse and fall apart, and that’s what makes women not want to have children.”

“This just gives my parents more reasons to pressure me to find a partner,” others complained.

“This cracks me up. My monthly income is already barely enough to cover for me alone.”

Besides those expressing concerns, there are also many jokes circulating online, such as a supposed Durex ad saying: “I’ll go, you guys have fun.”

In light of the new announcement, an older interview with Chinese businessman Shih Wing-ching (施永青), chairman of the Centaline Group, caused some controversy online when he suggested that Chinese couples should only be allowed to use contraception after having two children. According to the real estate mogul, it would be an effective way to solve China’s declining fertility rates.

“It would be better for him to wear a condom around his brain to protect him from these bewildering thoughts,” one Weibo commenter suggested.

Another topic of public ridicule was the image announcing the ‘three child policy’ by Chinese state media outlet Xinhua for containing a typo, with the wrong character being used in the word 生育, “give birth to” (using 肓 instead of 育).

“Shouldn’t we eliminate illiteracy first before letting people have three kids?” one Weibo user jokingly commented.

The original announcement by Xinhua contained a typo.

Despite all the criticism and online jokes, there are also those who are genuinely happy that having three children is now allowed for all couples. Recurring comments praise the freedom that comes with the loosening of family planning policies: “If you want to have more children, you can. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to.”

One woman on Weibo wrote: “When the two-child policy was introduced, I soon became pregnant with my second child. Yesterday I was thinking if we could try to have a baby girl, and just like that, the ‘three-child policy’ is here!”

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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